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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Blackcap

Hebrides Bird Sightings : Blackcap


(Eurasian Blackcap, The Northern Nightingale )

Sylvia atricapilla

Gaelic: Ceann-dubh


Photograph © Grahame Thompson
Aiginish - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
October, 2004

"5 Blackcaps along with the Redstart caught and ringed at Aiginish, Point this am. As well as the blackcaps and redstart, i also had Song Thrush, redwing, Goldcrest and wren".

Grahame is one of two British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) ringers on the island, he does the East side. His usual areas are the Castle Grounds and Aiginish, plus a whole heap of other sites depending on time of year and species!


Our Blackcap photographs



  • Blackcap (Eurasian Blackcap, The Northern Nightingale)
  • Sylvia atricapilla
  • Gaelic: Ceann-dubh
  • UK: Migrant Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
  • UK: Summer 932,000 territories. Winter 3,000 birds RSPB
  • WI: Uncommon passage visitor (low numbers)
  • Breeds: April - May. Nests in low shrub. Broad-leaved woodland. Lays 3-6 eggs. Northern temperate Europe, West Asia
  • Winters: South of breeding range to tropical Africa where local birds are resident. Blackcaps seen in the UK in winter are Central European breeders come to overwinter. UK breeding birds migrate south Sept - Oct
  • Habitat: Forest, open woodland, towns, parks. In winter also gardens with good cover - trees and shrubs.
  • Diet: Summer, insects, otherwise fruit and berries (mostly in cover), feeds at bird-tables in winter
  • Stocky, sparrow-sized greyish warbler. Grey face. Bale bluish-grey bill & legs.
    Male has black cap. Grey-brown upper parts. Light olive-grey underparts.
    Female dark chestnut-brown cap. Buff-coloured underparts. Juvenile ginger-chestnut cap.
  • Max recorded age 10yrs 8mths, typical lifespan 2yrs
    Listen to a Blackcap (RSPB site) . Melodious warble has earned the Blackcap the name "The Northern Nightingale".
  • Similar birds: Garden Warbler


The Blackcap is often found in the company of sparrows, although if you watch them together for a while it sometimes becomes apparent that it is not always a mutual choice. Frank Stark suggested that the Blackcaps are seeking safety in numbers.

A warbler, the Blackcap has the pointed bill of an insect-eater. It's diet cosist of insects in the summer, but when most of the insects are dormant but in winter it will also eat berries, and feed on sed at bird tables which makes it a hardy little bird.

The male Blackcap has a small black cap, the female bird a small chestnut-red cap, and the juvenile bird a small ginger-chestnut cap. The cap seems to be set tilting forward at a rather rakish angle, it comes down to the top of the eyes at the front, leaving the face and the back of the neck grey.

The Blackcap's voice is a tongue clicking sound "teck", and the melodious warble that is it's song, has earned the bird the name "The Northern Nightingale".

Active and alert by nature, rather shy and elusive, often disappearing into dense undergrowth except when singing.

Tag line "I think I saw one ..."


Blackcap records in the Western Isles

Uncommon passage visitor (low numbers)
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

We get a few Blackcaps visit us in the Western Isles each year, mostly in October and November.

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Blackcap is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)



Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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